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St. Louis hotels help fight sex trafficking

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a fascinating story Sunday about meeting planners in St. Louis enlisting hotels to fight sex-trafficking.

The article features Kimberly Ritter, an event planner with Nix Conference Meeting Management, who has adopted an interesting ritual every time she checks into a hotel: She pulls out her laptop and a copy of the local alternative newspaper, then tries to match details in photos in advertisements for private massages and personal escorts with the hotel rooms.

She’s found evidence of children as young as 12 being involved. And she’s identified a dozen St. Louis hotels where photos were taken.

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“We live in this beautiful bubble here in St. Louis, and people think it doesn’t happen here, but it does,” Ritter told the paper.

Ritter and her colleagues at Nix now ask hotels they are considering doing business with to sign a code of conduct to protect children from trafficking. Nix negotiates with about 500 hotels each year.

The human rights organization ECPAT USA, which stands for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, has long tried to get hotels, chambers of commerce and others in the tourism industry to sign such codes. But Michelle Guelbart, a project coordinator with ECPAT in New York, told the Post-Dispatch that meeting planners might have better luck because they have more leverage with hotels.

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American Hotel and Lodging Association CEO Joe McInerney told the paper that meeting planners are increasingly addressing hotels’ roles in preventing sex trafficking in their request for proposals.

Readers: Do you think hotels should sign these codes of conduct?

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